Buffalo Trace Distillery Moves Ahead With $200M Expansion

Buffalo Trace Distillery is forging onward with its expansion plans announced last year, in response to the continued rise in popularity of bourbon whiskey.

More than $200 million will go into the expansion, as new barrel warehouses are built and the bottling operation is relocated to make room for distillery expansion with new cookers and fermenters.

Buffalo Trace is already finishing up the conversion of two former office buildings back into barrel warehouses, the company reports. Warehouses “R” and “S” are being filled with barrels to age now, with warehouses “T” and “U” completed last year. The two buildings hold a combined 200,000 barrels of aging whiskey.

In addition to repurposing warehouses, Buffalo Trace is also building new barrel warehouses on the additional 200 acres of farmland it purchased a few years ago. These are the first new barrel warehouses with significant capacity that Buffalo Trace Distillery has built since 1951, the company says.

Artist’s rendering of the new warehouses.

Ground has already been broken on the first warehouse, which will hold more than 55,000 barrels. Completion is expected by the end of this year, with the first barrels planned to be rolled in early 2018. After that, a new warehouse will be built every four months for the next several years. These new warehouses will each cost about $7 million to build and another $21 million to fill with barrels.

All that bourbon needs someplace to be bottled: Buffalo Trace is moving its existing bottling operation into its old Distribution Center, located near the visitor parking lot. The new bottling hall will be more efficient, flexible, and improve overall quality, the company says. The move is expected to be complete by the end of 2018.

Once the bottling hall moves, the distillery will install larger cookers and additional fermenters for more bourbon production. Already this summer, bourbon production is scheduled to run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the first time in known history. “This year we plan to match the all-time high of barrel production here at Buffalo Trace, set in 1973,” says Harlen Wheatley, master distiller. “Next year we’ll exceed that and set new production records.”

The site of the expansion.

While Buffalo Trace is preparing for the future, current bourbon inventory remains tight on its flagship bourbon, the company says. This shortage will continue for the next few years as demand continues to increase. Brands such as Eagle Rare, W.L. Weller and Blanton’s Single Barrel will see moderate growth.

Buffalo Trace will continue bourbon allocations monthly across the U.S. to ensure each state receives some every month. Says Comstock, “We will not comprise taste nor quality, so rather than empty barrels prematurely, we’ll continue to wait for barrels to mature and allocate bourbon when it’s ready, while increasing production for the future.”

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